African countries made the decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in order to expand intra-continental trade and boost global competitiveness at all levels in 2012, bringing together 54 African nations to join common forces.
On 22nd March 2018, at least 26 heads of states are expected to sign the CFTA agreement in Rwanda. So far, the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has championed the speedy establishment of a single unified market, despite the opposition of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to Nigeria being a signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).
According to the NLC, signing the agreement was detrimental to the country’s economic interest and that the government did not consult the board widely on the matter.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Minister of Industry, Trade and investment Okechukwu Enelamah, said the government’s decision to bid for the headquarters of CFTA was predicated on the notable leading roles that Nigeria had played in the negotiation process. He also stated that it was better to be a leader by being the host nation than being a mere follower.
A single unified market, which is what the CFTA represents promises to increase in Intra-African trade of the 1.2 billion Africans with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion by almost 52.3 per cent.
After the intra-continental trade deal is signed, all African Union (AU) countries would share in the welfare gains estimated to be about 2.64 per cent of the continental GDP of $65 billion in 2018. Also, the union would expand the size of Africa’s economy to $29 trillion by 2050 as estimated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The Plan of Action for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa (AIDA), African Union and African Development Bank noted that successful industrialization of African countries depended on four pillars: infrastructure, energy and transportation development, research development, adaptation of new technologies and promotion of small and medium businesses.